Narada Muni asked Lord Narayana, "O Bhagavan! How did the pure, chaste Tulasi Devi become Your wife? Where was she born? Who was she in her previous birth? What family did she come from? And what austerities did she perform to get You as her husband--You, who are above the material energy, not subject to change, the Cosmic Self, the Supreme God, the Lord of all, omniscient, the cause of all, omnipresent, container and preserver of all. And how did Tulasi Devi, Your chief goddess, become a tree? O You who resolve all doubts, my mind is curious to know all about these points; therefore, it compels me to ask you these questions. Kindly remove these doubts from my mind."
Lord Narayana then related the following account...
Manu Daksa Savarni was a partial expansion of Lord Visnu. He was extremely virtuous, devoted to the Lord, and very famous for his good deeds. Daksa Savarni's son, Dharma Savarni, was also extremely virtuous. Dharma Savarni's pious son was called Visnu Savarni, and his son, who was a great Vaisnava, was known as Raja Savarni.
However, Raja Savarni's son, Vrisadhvaja, was fanatically devoted to Lord Siva. Lord Siva lived in Vrisadhvaja's house for three celestial yugas (ages) and loved him more than his own sons. Vrisadhvaja did not revere Lord Narayana, Goddess Laksmi or any of the demigods. He abolished the worship of Laksmi in the month of Bhadra (Aug., Sept.) and the worship of Saraswati in the month of Magha (Jan., Feb.). He did not participate in the sacrifice and worship performed out of respect for Lord Visnu (Narayana) and criticised them rather severely.
The demigods did not curse him because they feared Lord Siva. However, Surya, the sun god, no longer able to restrain his wrath, cursed him: "O King, just as you are completely devoted to Lord Siva and only to Lord Siva, and just as you do not recognise any of the other demigods, I declare that you will now lose your wealth and prosperity!"
When Lord Siva heard this curse, he became angry. Seizing his trident, he ran after Lord Surya. Afraid, the sun god went with his father, Kasyapa Muni, to Brahmaloka, the highest material planet, to take shelter of Lord Brahma. But Lord Siva pursued him there. Lord Brahma, also afraid of Lord Siva, took Lord Surya and Kasyapa Muni to the region of Vaikuntha, the spiritual or eternal world. There, with throats parched due to anxiety, they took refuge of Lord Narayana, the Lord of all. They offered obeisances to Him and praised Him repeatedly and finally explained why they were so apprehensive.
Lord Narayana bestowed His mercy on them and granted them the power to be fearless. He said, "O fearful ones, be consoled. How can you be afraid of anyone while I am here? If anyone remembers Me when he is in danger, wherever he may be, I hurry to him with my Sudarsan disc in my hand and save him. O demigods! I am always the creator, preserver and destroyer of this universe. In the form of Visnu, I am the preserver; in the form of Brahma, the creator; and in the form of Siva, the destroyer. I am Siva, I am you, and I am Surya. I assume numerous forms and preserve the universe. So go back to your respective places. You have nothing to be afraid of. All will be well.
"From this day on, you have nothing to fear from Lord Siva. He is the shelter of the pious, is easily pleased, is the servant and lord of his devotees, and is great minded. Lord Siva and the Sudarsana cakra are dearer to Me than My life. In the world of valour, they excel all. Lord Siva can easily create ten million Suryas and ten million Brahmas. For him, nothing is impossible. He is not conscious of the external world. Meditating on Me, his heart centred, he is absorbed day and night. From his five faces he repeats My mantra with devotion, and he always sings My glories. Day and night, I also always think of his welfare. To whatever degree one worships Me, to that degree I favor one. The nature of Siva is all-auspiciousness."
While Lord Narayana was speaking, Lord Siva arrived. His eyes red, and he was sitting on his bull carrier holding his trident. He dismounted quickly and humbly offered obeisances with devotion to the Lord of Laksmi, the tranquil Supreme Being.
Lord Narayana, Visnu, was sitting on His jewel-studded throne. He was decorated with a crown, earrings, and a garland, and was holding His disc. His form was extremely beautiful, and His complexion like a fresh blue rain cloud. Each of His attendants had four arms and was fanning Him with four hands. His body was anointed with sandal paste and He was wearing a yellow garment. Lord Visnu, who shows kindness to His devotees, was chewing betel nut that had been offered to Him by His wife Laksmi. Smiling, He was watching and listening to the dancing and singing of the Vidyadharis.
After Lord Siva bowed down to Lord Narayana, he bowed to Lord Brahma. Lord Surya and Kasyapa Muni respectfully saluted Lord Siva. Then Lord Siva worshiped Lord Visnu, the Lord of all, and seated himself on a throne. The attendants of Lord Narayana began to fan Lord Siva with white whisks to relieve him of the fatigue of his journey. Lord Siva, because of being in contact with Lord Visnu's virtues, then assumed a cheerful disposition and adored the Eternal Being with his five mouths.
Lord Narayana was highly gratified. With sweet, nectarean words, He said, "O Lord Siva, you are the symbol of all good and welfare. Thus, to ask about your welfare would be foolish. I would ask you only out of respect for the rules of society and the method prescribed in the Vedas. One who yields fruits of devotion and gives all prosperity should not be asked about his austerities or material prosperity. Since you preside over knowledge, it would be useless to ask if you are increasing in knowledge. It would be equally useless to ask a conqueror of death if he is free from all danger. But you have come to my residence for a reason. What is it? Have you become angry over something?"
"O Lord Visnu!," Lord Siva began. "King Vrisadhvaja is my great devotee. Lord Surya has cursed him and that has made me angry. Out of affection for my son, the king, I was about to kill Surya. But Surya sought shelter of Lord Brahma, and now both of them have sought Your protection. Those who are distressed and take shelter of You, either by speaking about You or by remembering You, become completely safe and free from danger. They overcome death and old age. What to speak of those who come personally to You and take shelter. When one remembers You, his dangers disappear. All good comes to him. O Lord of the world! What will become of my foolish devotee who, by the curse of Lord Surya, has lost his fortune and prosperity?"
Lord Visnu replied, "O Lord Siva! A half hour has elapsed here in Vaikuntha. In that time, twenty-one celestial yugas have passed away. Therefore, King Vrisadhvaja, through the revolution of irresistible and dreadful time, is dead. His son, Hamsadhvaja, in the course of time, also died. Hamsadhvaja begot two noble sons named Dharmadhvaja and Kusadhvaja. They are both great Vaisnavas but, because of Lord Surya's curse, they have become luckless. They lost their kingdoms, including all property and prosperity. But they are now engaged in worshiping Goddess Laksmi, who is pleased with their efforts. Therefore, She has agreed to descend to Earth and expand Herself partially by taking birth from the wives of those two kings. Then, by the favor of Goddess Laksmi, Dharmadhvaja and Kusadhvaja will become prosperous, mighty kings. O Lord Siva! Your devotee Vrisadhvaja is dead, so return to your abode. O Lord Brahma, Lord Surya and Kasyapa Muni--you also should return your realms."
Bhagavan Visnu then went with His wife to the inner apartments. The demigods went cheerfully to their own abodes, Lord Siva continuing his practice of austerity.
Dharmadhvaja and Kusadhvaja performed harsh asceticism and worshiped Goddess Laksmi. Thereafter, they separately obtained the blessings they desired. By Goddess Laksmi's favor, they again became the rulers of the earth. They acquired great spiritual merits, were married, and begot children. King Dharmadhvaja was married to Madhavi. After some time, she became pregnant with a partial incarnation of Goddess Laksmi. However, the infant remained in Madhavi's womb for one hundred celestial years. Day by day Madhavi's lustre increased. Then, on an auspicious day and moment, when there was a full moon, in the month of Kartika, on a Friday, she gave birth.
The grace of the Goddess of Fortune, Laksmi, manifested through the baby. There were marks of the lotus flower on the infant's feet. Her face looked like the autumnal moon, her eyes resembled blooming lotuses, and her lips appeared like ripe bimba fruit. Her palms and the soles of her feet were reddish, her navel was deep, and just above it were three folds. Her buttocks were round, and her body was delightfully warm in the winter and cool in the summer--very pleasant to touch. Her breast was firm and her waist thin, and the light shining from her body surrounded her like a halo. Her complexion was white, like a Champaka flower, and her hair looked beautiful. Because her beauty was incomparable, the sages called her Tulasi.